CuiousPages - fiction and nonfiction
CuriousPages - fiction and nonfiction
Andrea Segovia was twenty eight and was not satisfied with the Spanish men in her home town of Madrid. She had recently discovered internet dating and met an English man called Craig Stemford. He lived in London and seemed to possess none of the flaws that Spanish men did. She was excited and could foresee no problems. They had chatted online for two months and six days and now Andrea was strolling through an arrivals lounge at Heathrow airport with her single suitcase in tow. She was beginning a new life and was travelling light.
Craig met her and took her to his house in Chepstow Villas. She told him how to greet her, how to sit, how to eat his meal in a satisfying way and how to drink tea properly. Andrea knew all about good taste. Her parents separated when she was a baby and she was raised by her mother who, by way of a divorce settlement, was left with two valuable possessions, an antique couch and a set of six antique soup bowls. These were the only material possessions she truly cherished. The other passion in her life was order and correctness. Andrea loved her mother and the two of them worked as a team in their household, correcting the placement of objects by a three-degree rotation to the left or a two-millimetre nudge to the right. But most care was taken on the display of those antique bowls along the living-room dresser and on meticulously brushing the couch so its fabric caught the light in a pleasing way. Andrea soon became as obsessed as her mother was with tidiness and by adulthood had developed a sixth sense for detecting bad taste. When she first entered Craig’s house she helpfully told him which of the pictures on his walls belonged in the dustbin, and after instructing him on his manners and habits, they were in bed and he began kissing her when she pushed him back and said: “No, you are doing it all wrong. You do not know how to kiss. Your mouth should not be so much open. Now, try again.”
She motioned for him to attempt the technique again and he obliged. She pushed him away and said, “No, that is still no good. Let me show you.”
She placed her fingers on his chin and closed his mouth, which was hanging open, then she began caressing his lips with hers, when his tongue attempted to part her lips. She pushed him back and said, “You will need lots of training. You are no good at this.”
Andrea’s first experience of kissing had set the standard for all others to match. At the age of sixteen she met Jorge. When they kissed it seemed to go on endlessly and transported her to another world and twelve years later she could still vividly recall the taste and texture of his mouth.
Six days after meeting Jorge, she took him to her mother’s house. Her mother was away and was not expected back for a few hours. Her mother’s rule was that the antique bowls were never to be used and food was not to be eaten in the living room, to protect the couch. But Andrea wanted to give Jorge something special and it seemed appropriate to break these two rules. She warmed some soup and served it in two of her mother’s antique bowls and, to complete Jorge’s treat, she decided they would eat while sitting on her mother’s couch. The two of them were about to sit and Andrea held out Jorge’s soup for him. At that moment, she heard her mother entering the house. She turned to look at the living-room door. She felt almost dizzy with pride, since her mother was about to meet Jorge. She thought he had taken the weight of the bowl from her and she released it. She felt a sensation beside her, as though a large well had opened up and black air were rushing down into it. She looked round to see the bowl landing on the couch, its soup emptying over the fabric and the bowl then falling to the tiled floor and smashing. Her mother entered the living-room and her eyes were drawn to the pool of soup soaking into her couch. She looked down to the smashed soup bowl and fainted.
In the living room of 52 Niggling Grievance Street, Lily Smithe was sitting in her easy chair, Helen Smithe was sitting at one end of the sofa and Peter Softly was sitting at the other end with his shopping basket placed on the floor beside his feet. Helen had been eyeing Peter from head to foot, and she now started making insinuating comments about transvestites.
Peter lifted the front of his overcoat, pulled out Lily’s letter and told Lily, ‘I’ve come about your letter, Mrs Smithe.’
Helen abruptly stood, said she would make some tea and headed for the kitchen.
Lily started talking, but Peter could not quite get to her meaning. He gave up trying, leant forward, rummaged through the basket and gripped the hatchet’s handle. But then his hand start trembling so much that he wondered whether it was right that he should be contemplating using this weapon.
Lily said, ‘But are you eating enough, Peter?’ She saw that he was bent over that basket, playing with something within it, and she called, ‘Peter!’ He looked up, but distantly—as if he were playing in some playground in his mind, some fantasy playground that was miles from anywhere. She repeated, ‘Are you eating enough?’ He did not respond. She said, ‘I mean, who’s looking after you, Peter?’
He looked back down to the basket and saw the hatchet in his hand. He could now barely hold it; all the strength seemed to have gone from his arm, and the muscles in his arm had begun aching with the effort of holding this great weight in his hand. He dropt the hatchet, took his notepad and pen from the basket and mentioned Lily’s letter to her again. She started saying, ‘There’s crowds of people coming to read the gas meter...’ He wrote this in his pad, so that he could study the words, to try to more clearly understand their meaning. While doing this, he heard her saying something about somebody drinking her tea, and her milk—these people always drank her milk. But he was already frowning at the words on the pad, trying to make sense of them. Then he thought about Sally, about the monster that had so successfully possessed her head, causing them to come to hate each other. He thought about the way it was now impossible for him to battle through her hatred in order to communicate with her—her just shouting incomprehensible things at him whenever he got near her. He thought about her affair with Roland, which he was sure she was only doing to show him how much she hated him. Then he recalled the man he had met earlier, the way the monster in his head had made him try to manipulate Peter into jumping to his tune by trying to make him feel guilty. The man had then said, ‘You’re just the sort of person who causes all the problems. Are you stupid——?’ and he had nodded to indicate that Peter should answer ‘Yes’.
Trying to understand Lily’s words on his pad, and listening to what she was saying now, he knew that she too was possessed by one of those invisible monsters. He looked up at her, and he could almost see the monster inside her head, possessing her personality and working her mouth.
He stood up, placed his shopping basket over his arm and made his way round to the back of Lily’s easy chair. He could still hear her words, which now sounded like mockery, as though the monster in her head were making her mock him—as that other woman who had made comments about transvestites had done. He told her not to worry—he was helping her; he would soon stop them; he knew what to do now——
Lily was sitting with her hands in her lap, smiling proudly and saying, ‘Oh, I am impressed, Peter; you’re so clever now.’
He stood behind her chair, looking down at the back of her head. He could feel the presence of that monster inside that had possessed her, and also all those wrong ideas that were the seeds of yet more and more of these monsters; he could clearly feel all this down there in her head. He reached into the basket and gripped the handle of the hatchet, telling that mocking voice that he knew what to do now—It’s okay; don’t worry. He raised the hatchet above his head, and his hand was now trembling so much that he could hardly hold the hatchet any longer, and he was sure he was about to drop it, but he knew he was about to experience a tremendous release, if only he could keep defying those monsters for a moment longer, only seconds now. He felt his whole body climbing into place up there above him, and just when that weapon had become so heavy that he was sure he could not go on holding it any more, his hand then became steady, rock steady, and the hatchet wedged down into the head, again and again and again.
While this release was taking place, a single thought entered his mind; he saw himself transforming into a malicious dark mist and then engulfing Sally; he could see himself—in the form of this mist—pouring all over her, and he could see the horror in her face as he attacked her again and again and again from inside this mist. But he could not let this happen (—They’re trying to make me behave like them; but I won’t let them; I have to find the seeds before these monsters can make me——), and then he thought he could see the seeds and he started spooning them out with the hatchet’s blade (—Get them out! all of them—stop this horror; you won’t do it again; I have to stop you—it shouldn’t be like this—get them out! out——).
He wiped the hatchet clean on the back of the easy chair and made his way to the kitchen. In there, he saw the back of the second head as the other person stood against the sink. He could hear a woman humming, and also the sound of metal clanking against china. He raised his trembling hand above his head again, and he found that this was so much easier now—now that he knew what that release felt like, and also that he was doing the right thing. Then the hatchet wedged down into this other head, and he tumbled with the head to his knees as the body fell to the floor. He bent over it and continued wedging down into the head, digging for those seeds (—Get them out—stop this horror; it’s wrong! You won’t do it again; I’ll stop you—there they are!—out! get them out! out! out!).

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